Happy Birthday, Canada!
I never felt attached to the country my Father so loyally represented, how could I, I hadn’t spent much time there, and yet, no matter where I was in the world, Canada Day was an emotional and joyful occasion for the rest of the Embassy, but I was still very much detached. It was the only day the Embassy would shut down, and my parents would allow us to stay home from school. From a young age, it was a day filled with strawberry shortcake, a sea of red and white and maple leaves. I just didn’t understand it, how could I, I didn’t even know the words to our national anthem.
It wasn’t until I was 11, and my Father had become Ambassador, that Canada Day became real. Most embassies spend a couple of months organizing a National Day, the reception at the Ambassador’s house is usually a formal reception, and it is highly political. However, there is usually a big embassy bash for everyone at the embassy during the day.
My Father had made a point of never making us participate in any diplomatic functions, he didn’t think it was fair. The first Canada day my Father celebrated as an Ambassador was a momentous occasion. He had dreamt of becoming a Canadian ambassador since he was 11, and waking up on July 1st was a day I will never forget. We came down to breakfast, the house had been under preparation for 3 days, cleaned, buffed, tables, tents, extra people – it was a complete zoo. That morning, my Father sat down with a grin that was so big, it was the morning, I sat with him and he explained.
something along the lines of “Your Grandfather fought hard for our freedom in WW2, he flew and dropped bombs, his passion was flying, he used force because he had to. I never wanted to use guns, I never wanted war, I wanted to use words as my weapon. I wanted to make sure words were used to create peace, so you would never have to face war.” – I remembered taking that in, and then asked him “Why Canada?”
My Father said, it was obvious, in Canada he could be anything, be friends with anyone, be the diplomat he wanted to be. He was proud to be Canadian. He in fact, was born in England, and my grandmother was English, but my Grandfather was Canadian. My Father hadn’t even stepped foot into Canada until he was a teen, and he said, he stepped foot in Canada, and knew he was home. His dual citizenship status, changed to just Canadian.
Everyday my Father woke up, singing and whistling, I don’t ever recall my Father ever waking up in a bad mood, we could have a war outside, and he could be running on 1 hour of shuteye, and yet, he would open his eyes, hum, do a little dance, and start his day. Without fail, happy. He might not have ended his day happy, but he always chose to be happy with every sunrise.
That day, that first ever Canada Day that I knew things were different, my Father smiled all day. When he put on his suit and tie, he put on his maple leaf cufflinks, and his red and white tie. He was ready to great every dignitary, every political appointee, every entrepreneur, every single person that was invited to the residence, he greated them like he greeted a new immigrant touching foot on Canadian soil, he was so proud and so honoured to be able to celebrate his beloved nation with everyone else in the house. My Father’s love that day for his nation, was infectious, it was so infectious, that I wanted to find that for my beloved Canada. It would take me another few years, but when I finally sang our National Anthem on Parliament Hill on Canada Day, surrounded by 10’s of thousands of by closest red and white clad friends, I finally got it. I got why my Father loved this country so much.
I may never understand hockey, love beer, or ever have the need to say toque or eh, but I am incredibly proud to say that I came from courageous grandparents who fought for my freedom, and Father who used his words to keep peace so I would never have to experience war, and proud to say that I represented this country internationally, and raising a child who sees nothing but opportunity.
I love Canada.